Beauty to Ashes – Reproduce the Common Practice

Beauty to Ashes
Reproduce the Common Practice

Right off the bat, let me say that this kind of thing usually leaves me cold and disinterested. Wading through so much cavernous, cacophonous muck is more of a chore than anything else. I am as big a fan of loud, raw, aggressive hardcore and punk as anyone, but why is it that so many in the genre feel it necessary to resort to senseless monotone screaming in order to convey pain/anger/fury/spite/hatred? There are far more interesting and innovative ways to lay waste to our more primitive and brutal emotions than larynx-lacerating tumult and blood-curdling screams. The relentless, uncompromising, in-your-face approach is cathartic when measured out in small doses, but taken in large quantities it is painfully shrill and abrasive like a neighbor’s annoying hammering when you are trying to get some sleep.
Southern California’s Beauty to Ashes play a pulverizing brand of metal-core and punk with full-throttle, atonal rhythms and furious guitars that threaten to boil over. They don’t waste much time with things like dynamics, subtlety, or innuendo, choosing instead to go directly for the throat with a jagged, lashing, high-velocity attack that pummels and punishes. Reproduce the Common Practice comes and goes so quickly (the 10 tracks clock in at 21:19), and it’s difficult not to get trampled over by their reckless rush to kick your ass with their sinister sonic assault. Songs like the caustic opener “Bystandards of a Lifestyle Obsession” and the torrid follow-up “Chronicles of Life” are such ruthless, heavy-handed, stompers – switching seamlessly from intricate speed punk to pounding, move-it-in-the-pit hardcore mosh-metal – listening is like being submerged in a vat of boiling oil. Good god, this is some visceral shit!
But piss-scream-rage can only take you so far before it begins to wear thin. Yeah, I know, it’s all so fucking awful, painful, and disappointing, blah, blah, blah, but would it really hurt Beauty to Ashes to throw in some hooks now and then? Coalesce and Converge played this sort of screamo hardcore for years, but they managed to keep thing fresh and interesting by pushing the envelope with their off-kilter style and arrangements as well as with their ambitious experimentation with the hardcore/metal form. Beauty to Ashes – as relentless and unholy loud as they are – does neither. Even the unrelenting Refused – for all their red-throated intensity and chimerical, bombastic bursts – never completely abandoned the pop virtues of melody, harmony, and rhythm. You have to give listeners something to hold on to, something that they can take with them. Too many punk and hardcore bands take this to be a breach of principles or a failure of integrity, like singing with some semblance of melody is just false pretense and not a disciplined skill. But a non-stop avalanche of screaming, barking, yelling, and shouting is neither creative nor progressive. It is a poor substitute for a lack of ideas. The irony is that vocalist Joel Von Steitz has a strong, charismatic voice when he chooses to display it. When Steitz finally discards the savage growl for a more refined and melodic approach on the scintillating chorus to “How to Put Out a Fire with Gasoline,” the results are pure dynamite. In fact, it is the most exhilarating moment on an otherwise unremarkable, middle-of-the-road LP.
On a positive note, the tri-fold deluxe digipak packaging and artwork are phenomenal. The lyrics are included, which is good because I can’t understand a word that Steitz is saying. There is also a tight, balls-out cover of The Misfits’ “We are 138,” which closes things out on an unexpected high note. Still, it’s too little too late.